"As opposed to illiteracy, where you can't read, aliteracy means that you can but you just can't be bothered. They say aliteracy is on the rise these days."
- Peter Watts
||A device that projects a field of force that acts like a space suit.
Would you give up a lung in exchange for always having your space suit handy?
|They stopped off at Mari's lab. An hour later, Lilo emerged minus her left lung. In its place was a null-suit generator, something she had never used before. It seemed to indicate that she was going to Mercury or Venus, since these were the only places where null-suits were necessary to get by. She curiously fingered the small metal flower below her collarbone, which was the air exhaust valve and control unit of the suit, as Mari explained how to operate it. She had a slight soreness in her neck where Mari had installed the binaural radio and voder that went with the suit...
A null-suit was not easy to get used to. Some of it was merely disconcerting, such as finding yourself wrapped in a mirror that followed every curve of your body at a distance of one to one and a half millimeters. When she looked at herself, what she saw was a distorted picture of the things around her, twisted like a funhouse mirror. But some of it was downright alarming. Lilo had been breathing air for fifty-seven years, and suddenly to stop was not easy.
The suit contained a neural link that suppressed the part of the automatic nervous system that controlled her diaphragm. When the suit was on, the breathing reflex was turned off. But it was not quite that simple. Below even the level where digestion, heartbeat, and breathing are controlled was a primitive ape that was just smart enough to realize she was not breathing, but not smart enough to understand the suit was taking care of it. The result was a near-panic reaction...
... She visualized the irregular metal implant Mari had put in place of her left lung. It contained the nullfield generator, a thirty-hour supply of oxygen, and artificial alveoli that connected with her pulmonary circulation system. The null-suit exchanged oxygen for carbon dioxide, but much more efficiently than her lungs could. The oscillation of her suit's field created a bellows action that forced nearly pure carbon dioxide from the exhaust valve under her collarbone.
|From The Ophiuchi Hotline,
by John Varley.
Published by Quantum Science Fiction in 1977
Additional resources -
Compare to the personal force shield from Isaac Asimov's 1951 novel Foundation.
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